Anderson County Courthouse

Texas residents are alarmed at the sharp hike in value of their 2022 property tax appraisals. Those that wish to protest the matter have options, but their window of opportunity is about to close.

Appraisal taxes are based on what the appraisal district decides is the current market value. Every school board, city council, and county commissioner’s court will be meeting this summer to determine a tax rate to apply against this valuation.

These bodies will ultimately decide if your taxes increase, decrease, or stay the same.

According to Chris Woolsey, a commercial real estate advisor, property tax consultant and Corsicana City Councilmember, the county tax assessor-collector must publish a tax rate that would collect the same dollar amount, not accounting for growth, as the previous year — called the “No New Revenue Rate,” formerly known as the “Effective Rate.”

“Every city councilman, county commissioner and school board trustee knows prior to voting which rate will not increase your out of pocket tax bill,” he said.

“School districts typically take the largest piece of your tax pie, often accounting for 40 to 50% or more of your tax bill, which is why school board races are so important,” Woolsey said. “City, county and school taxes and bonds, a softer way of saying “increased tax burden,” have the most direct impact on your everyday life as well as your pocketbook, yet elections for these critical positions are largely skipped by the very people they impact. What most people don’t know is that every local taxing entity is free to set the property tax rate to $0.00—every local government could abolish property taxes, like the city of Stafford, Texas has done.”

The appraisal district assigns a value to your property that, in theory, should reflect about 95% of your property’s market value. The appraisal district must also notify the property owner if the value increases over a certain amount from the previous year.

Woolsey said the number one reason for high tax appraisals is the current state of the real estate market, with home buyers massively over paying for homes on the market and ultimately inflating prices and the value of homes.

“The continual raising of tax appraisals is discouraging property ownership,” he said.

Anderson County Judge Robert Johnston wants residents to know that the Commissioners Court has no involvement with the property tax appraisals.

“The appraisal district is governed by a board of directors made up of one person from every taxing entity in the county,” Johnston said. “Anderson County Commissioners Court has no say so over what the appraisal district does. They are responsible for setting the appraisals for each parcel of property. It is against the law for any elected official to call or talk to an employee of the appraisal district about appraisal values. I am very concerned about the rise in appraisals throughout the county and will pledge as County Judge to keep the tax rate at the no new revenue rate or lower so that taxpayers will not have their county taxes go up.”

What many people don’t know is that value is not set in stone immediately; you have a right to protest the appraisal district’s assessment. Protesting your appraisal is a task most people forget about, but it can have a tremendous impact on if, or how much, your property tax bill increases. Business owners can protest their business personal property appraisal (commonly referred to as the “inventory tax”) as well. Every individual has a right to protest these appraisals, and there are professional services available to help guide you through the process if needed.

If you are not happy with your appraised values, the law gives property owners the right to protest actions concerning their property tax appraisals.

However, one Anderson County resident said his request fell on deaf ears.

Firouz Haghighi, owner of Palestine Hydraulic Services, took the time to protest his new property tax appraisal for his home, after also going up significantly last year.

“It was a complete waste of time,” he said. “They had already made up their mind. They didn’t consider anything I said and rubber stamped it ‘No.’”

Haghighi said when he bought his property in 2007, land was going for $2,500 an acre and is now selling for $12,500 an acre.

“If I wanted to sell my home, the high appraisal would be great,” Haghighi said. “But I don’t want to sell. This is a retirement community. We have a lot of people on fixed incomes. You are taxing people whose families have owned houses and property for generations out of their homes.”

Not only is Haghighi upset about the second year for escalated rates, he’s also upset about the timing.

“This is the worst time possible for the county to go up on our taxes,” he said. “Inflation is at an all time high. Families are already struggling to pay for their basic needs, like groceries and fuel and now you want to make it harder for them to stay in their homes?”

According to Woolsey, taxpayers have two powerful, tangible tools at their disposal to keep property taxes in check, yet sadly many forget about them.

“The first is to participate in local elections for city council and school board elections. These are traditionally low turnout elections in May that have a greater impact on your daily life than Congress or the President,” he said. “The second is to protest your appraisals, and exercise your right to check the appraisal district’s assessment. Actively participating in both sides of the conversation gives you and your community the best opportunity to bring property taxes under control, and ensure your dollars are wisely spent on the services you care most about. Until our state legislature and governor commit to abolishing the property tax system, no Texan will truly own property—we are all tenants sending a rent check to the government each year.”

Thankfully, many homeowners also benefit from exemptions, most notably the homestead exemption. There are other exemptions for disabled Texans, senior citizens and disabled veterans. Taxing jurisdictions, like counties and cities, can apply an additional homestead exemption of up to 20% of the total value.

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